Continuity on the offensive line was the reason Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy gave as to why La'el Collins didn't reclaim his starting job at right tackle against the Vikings. Collins spent the week getting reps at both tackle and guard before playing in Kellen Moore's wishbone set as a fullback to mark his return from suspension. Terence Steele started at RT like he has in each game this season, and held up well in protection of Cooper Rush. Steele will remain in the starting lineup when Dak Prescott returns against the Broncos this Sunday, though at left tackle to fill in for Tyron Smith.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott said Terence Steele is playing left tackle and Lael Collins is playing right tackle on Sunday #DallasCowboys
Smith's injury in Minnesota opened the door for Collins to play RT again, enough of a blow to put aside any additional motives behind his delayed return to the lineup. Ty Nsekhe came in for Smith at the Vikings, but it's Steele that's reliably protected Prescott all season – earning his playing time as the Cowboys play their best five linemen against the Broncos.
Steele along with Brandon Knight were bright spots for the Cowboys a year ago, as Moore kept the offense together without either starting tackle or Prescott. Now, the Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the league with Steele being the hangover from an otherwise forgetful 2020 campaign. A valuable swing tackle that can fill in for either Collins or Smith has been a need on the Cowboys roster, as was a backup QB capable of stepping in to win a game.
The do-no-wrong 6-1 Cowboys have both of these things right now. Smith's injury being about pain management, the Cowboys will be faced with a decision on just how long Steele can be in the starting lineup when he's ready to play again. Dallas will be looking for Collins to take full grasp of the right tackle spot before inserting Smith back in the lineup, pairing the tackles together for the first time since week one when the time comes.
Of course, Steele may be the first to remind anyone that will listen that week one remains the lone Cowboys loss on this season.
Offensive line coach Joe Philbin has earned praise for making the right decisions since joining McCarthy's staff. That season opener in Tampa Bay was the only game he's coached in two years with both Collins and Smith starting at tackle.
Cowboys LT Tyron Smith (ankle) is not expected to play Sunday against Denver, but Mike McCarthy said: “I’m not looking at this as a long term injury at all.”
The decision to keep this continuity will be an easy one, even if this week's preview of what La'el Colilns looks like at RT again is due to injury. As a team, the Cowboys have a lot to look forward to with impact players returning from injury over the coming weeks. It shouldn't be long until Smith can quickly be added to this list.